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amatwrestler

10:01AM | 08/11/07
Member Since: 08/10/07
1 lifetime posts
Bvelectrical
I am updating the swiches in my home from the original 1975 toggle switches to rocker switches. The light in the foyer is controlled by 3 different switches.

The switch in the foyer also has a switch for external lighting. The original light switch was a 3-switch with a black wire on the left side, a red and black wire on the right (the black wire also runs to one of the posts on the single toggle for the external light?)

The light downstairs was similar except it had a 4-way for the foyer light and a single for the light in the family room. The 4-way had a black and red connection on the right side and red and black wire on the left (top to bottom) The wires for the single seem to be independent.

The light upstairs has a 3-way siwth for the foyer, a 3-switch for the hall and a single for an outlet in the living room. All those wires seem to be independent as well.

I installed new rocker switchs in the foyer and downstairs but now I have to play some 3 switch logic game while trying to turn on the light. The switches all seem to be dependent upon the position of the other switches now (Prior they were all independent and worked regardless of the position of the other switches)

Any thougts?? I can take some pics if necessary. I just bought this house last august and I am updating a lot opf things in it and this simple switch dilemma is holding me up (I refuse to let it beat me and my pride will not let me move on until I have conquered!!)

Billhart

10:30AM | 08/11/07
Member Since: 04/25/05
1915 lifetime posts
My guess is that you got the connection one or more switches mixed up.

Differnet brands and styles of switches will have terminals in different locations.

Look at the color of the terminals. They will be silver and dark (or brass) colored.

For the 3-way the the color which only has one terminal is connected tothe single black wire. the color which has 2 terminals connects to the black and red pair, aka the "travalers".

It has been awhile since I looked at a 4-way. You can go to the store and verify it by looking at the box. But I think that one set of travelers will connect to the silver terminals and the other to the brass terminals.

This link shows the basic of 3/4 way switches.

http://www.selfhelpandmore.com/switchoutlet/4way/

And there are a number of various, but I think that this is what you have (unless they did not follow the color code).

http://www.selfhelpandmore.com/switchoutlet/4way/4waylast.htm

MistressEll

10:31AM | 08/11/07
Member Since: 01/30/05
361 lifetime posts
Your four way switch, think of as the master for the switch loop - the two three-way switches were necessary to complete this switch loop.

It sounds as though you have either: replaced the three-way switches with single pole-single throw switches by mistake, used 4-way switches instead of three-way switches for the two "slave" switches in the switch loop, or made a wiring error when you installed the two replacement three-way switches.

The first thing you need to understand is that in a simple 3-way (two location) or a 4-way+ switch loop you have to understand how the switches themselves work, AND the function of the TRAVELER.

There is a very good web site called something like self-help.com (can't remember exact web site name, may or may not have a hyphen - try google or similar searching:

self help +"4-way switch"

It should provide a list that includes the aforementioned web site.

Next you'll need to determine where power from the panel is in your lighting loop - etc.

The presence of other switch loop controls at these locations is irrelevant, the fact that you mentioned them leads me to believe you have made more than one wiring error in your switch substitution - likely wire-nutting several similarly colored wiring insulation encased wires that shouldn't have been connected, and/or attaching the wrong wires to the wrong terminals on your three-way switches (mistaking circuit "hot" and "neutral" with "switch loop" "hot" and neutral" and confusing the traveler wire with the "hot" or "neutral".

Usually there is an "insert" in the box containing a newly purchased 3-way or 4-way switch. Have you consulted that? It should contain information as to which post is which on the switch - and usually contains info on wiring diagram of the switch loop. The 4-way insert should contain the necessary information you seek regards how you mis-wired the 3-way switches.

MistressEll

10:49AM | 08/11/07
Member Since: 01/30/05
361 lifetime posts
"The switch in the foyer also has a switch for external lighting. The original light switch was a 3-switch with a black wire on the left side, a red and black wire on the right (the black wire also runs to one of the posts on the single toggle for the external light?)"

***sounds like this box contains black, power from the panel. the power may come directly from the panel to this box, or it might first go to one of the light box locations being lit by this switch loop, then travel to this electrical box location. It is impossible to tell from here, where in the switch loop (from which switch box) the interuptable power from the switch loop goes to the light.

"The light downstairs was similar except it had a 4-way for the foyer light and a single for the light in the family room. The 4-way had a black and red connection on the right side and red and black wire on the left (top to bottom) The wires for the single seem to be independent."

**Not enough information here - regarding the "single" switch loop, could be power from the panel first goes to the lighting being controled by this switch - unknown - no information as to how many wires enter, leave, pass through this box. to know how the switch loop for the 4-way loop is configured from this description.

"The light upstairs has a 3-way siwth for the foyer, a 3-switch for the hall and a single for an outlet in the living room. All those wires seem to be independent as well."

** again not enough information for us to determine, confirm or not your assumptions.

"I installed new rocker switchs in the foyer and downstairs but now I have to play some 3 switch logic game while trying to turn on the light. The switches all seem to be dependent upon the position of the other switches now (Prior they were all independent and worked regardless of the position of the other switches)"

Okay, the downstairs light was the original 4-way switch, and the foyer switch was originally a 3-way switch. You did NOT indicate if you installed the correct 4-way switch in the downstairs location, nor how you installed it. IF you did, perhaps you forgot to mark which red wire went with which black wire during the swap - i.e. side A versus side B. or which terminal screw color.

You also didn't indicate if you used a replacement 3-way switch in the foyer. All you told us is that you installed rocker style switches.

Did you install single pole switches?

Pictures would be helpful.

I also note there was no mention of a pigtail wire in the downstairs electrical box housing the 4-way switch and another switch. Was this black wire stripped but continuous where it was wrapped around a terminal screw on the 4-way switch, then carried over to the other switch and terminated on a screw there?

Do you have more than one wire under any terminal screw?

MistressEll

10:58AM | 08/11/07
Member Since: 01/30/05
361 lifetime posts
if you have the correct switches in these two replacement locations, next thing I'd check is that downstairs 3-way switch, and that you hve the wrong black wires to the wrong terminal screws - i.e. the power from the panel jumping to the second switch in the same box versus the black switch loop wire (with the red one).

Next that you mixed up the red and black pairs on the four way switch, i.e. Left pair (one red and black) with the Right pair (one red and black), meaning that for example on the left side you attached the left red and the right black, or the right red and the left black. Its not just which side of the switch but the color of the terminal screw.

Finally it is really easy to mix up a 3-way and a 4-way switch - they are often in the wrong bins of bulk switches at the "big box" stores.
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